MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. Women first began competing in Olympic weightlifting in the 2000 Sydney games, and the U.S. women's team hasn't won a medal since then. Taking her shot this year is superheavyweight competitor Holley Mangold, who is 22 years old. Jerry Kenney of member station WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has this profile.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: There you go.
JERRY KENNEY, BYLINE: Near the back of the North YMCA in Columbus, Ohio, several men and women line up on a row of beat-up platforms. They take turns practicing the two lifts that make up Olympic weightlifting: the snatch and the clean and jerk. The goal is to get large amounts of weight from the floor into an overhead position. Included in this group is 5-foot-8, 350-pound Holley Mangold. She is the epitome of power in appearance, attitude and athletic ability. Today, she's focusing on technique.
HOLLEY MANGOLD: Obviously, my strength isn't going anywhere, so I'm just trying to be technically together and also get my mind right.
KENNEY: But before getting her mind right, Holley spent a lifetime just trying to find the right sport.
MANGOLD: Honestly, ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be in the Olympics. I just hadn't found the sport that was going to take me there yet. You know, at first, I thought it was gymnastics, but, you know, my body wasn't really built out for that one. And then I thought it was swimming, and then I thought it was track and field, and now with weightlifting, I finally have found what I've been missing all those years was that passion.
KENNEY: If Holley was missing any passion growing up, it was lost on her mom, Therese Mangold. She recalls taking Holley ice-skating at the age of 3.
THERESE MANGOLD: She liked to go fast. It didn't bother her at all if she fell. And skiing was like that too. I took her skiing probably when she was 5 or 6, and I held her in between my legs as we're going down the hill. She was mad at me for holding on to her, and she's swatting me off. So I finally said forget it, and I let go of her.
KENNEY: Holley made it down that hill just fine and then moved on to other sports, including roller-skating, softball, volleyball and then football. She played football for 12 years in her hometown of Kettering, just outside Dayton, Ohio. Her inspiration was her brother, Nick Mangold, who plays center for the New York Jets. But Holley is making her own mark in the sports world. She was the first girl to play on the offensive line in a high school state championship game. And by the time she graduated in 2008, she held several state and national records in powerlifting.
LARRY PACIFICO: Holley is one of the strongest females I've ever met.
KENNEY: Former world powerlifting champion Larry Pacifico coached Holley in the sport while she was still in high school.
PACIFICO: She went up to the state meet and set all the records that have ever been set: squatted 525 pounds, benched 225 and deadlifted 400 pounds.
KENNEY: Holley's desire to compete in the Olympics propelled her from powerlifting, a non-Olympic sport, into weightlifting. The media spotlight followed. She appeared on an episode of MTV's "True Life," and she's been featured prominently on ESPN and other media outlets.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hold it. Hold it.
KENNEY: For the past year and a half, Mark Cannella, with Columbus Weightlifting, has been coaching Holley here at the North YMCA. His goal was to get Holley ready for the 2016 Olympics, but she got better fast.
MARK CANNELLA: The way she progressed and the way she was moving with the weights, we knew right then that she had a shot at 2012.
KENNEY: Holley is also trying to keep her expectations for London in check. She says gold is out of the question. The top two international competitors are lifting about 66 pounds above their closest counterparts. Setting a personal record may be Holley's most obtainable goal, but she still wants a medal.
MANGOLD: I really would like to medal at the Olympics, and I'd like to get bronze, and that's what I'm shooting for. Are my goals going to happen? I don't know, but I'm still going to shoot for them.
KENNEY: And if she doesn't medal? Well, she's only 22, and there are still the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympic Games. For NPR news, I'm Jerry Kenney. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.